VP Robredo, Liberal Party give option to address rice crisis, rising prices of goods

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 3) — Vice President Leni Robredo and Liberal Party (LP) leaders on Monday presented a number of options to address the supposed rice crisis and rising prices of basic commodities.

Robredo said National Food Authority (NFA) leadership must be overhauled to solve the rice supply lack.

"Ayusin ang NFA. Resolbahin agad ang isyu ng kakulangan ng supply ng bigas. Magtalaga ng pinunong mahusay at mapagkakatiwlalaan ng lahat," she said in a media briefing.

Robredo and LP lawmakers urged Duterte to sack NFA Administrator Jason Aquino, whom they said is the root of the rice crisis.

"March pa lang pinagbibitiw na namin si Jason Aquino. Na-predict natin na magkakaroon ng problema dito dahil hindi talaga maganda ang management ng NFA. Kapag hindi alam ng liderato ng NFA ang ginagawa nila, uulit po itong problema," Senator Bam Aquino said.

Senator Kiko Pangilinan said there is not only incompetency, but also corruption in the NFA, citing the Commission on Audit report.

They said President Rodrigo Duterte can create a task force comprised of Cabinet officials to address the rice emergency.

Pangilinan said Duterte should tap members of the policy-making NFA Council, specifically Finance Secretary Secretary Sonny Dominguez, Trade Secretary Mon Lopez, and Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia to determine the next steps on rice supply.

"Sila na ang magbalangkas ng next steps sa rice procurement, kung importation ba, sa palay procurement. Baguhin itong naging direksyon na naging palpak sa administrasyon under the NFA administrator," he said.

From P40 per kilogram, prices of commercial rice reached up to ₱70 per kilogram in Zamboanga City, which declared a state of emergency due to rice supply shortage.

Duterte on Sunday denied there is a rice shortage and instead attributed higher rice prices to "politics," while Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol blames it on "speculation."

The NFA Council's approval to ship in more rice is expected to bring down retail prices.

Robredo also called for the suspension of higher excise tax on fuel.

Aquino blames high fuel prices for the continuing spike in inflation.

"Ang pagtaas ng diesel at gasolina, isa po ito sa mga nagpapataas ng presyo ng bilihin," he said.

Rep. Miro Quimbo on Tuesday filed a bill that seeks to return to zero the excise taxes on kerosene and diesel proposed under the TRAIN law.

 

The Vice President also said the government should look into the P200 conditional cash transfer and review if it should be raised to help the poor deal with rising prices of goods.

Robredo and the LP hope the Duterte administration will consider their suggestions.

"Umaasa kami na seryosong tignan ng pamahalaan ang mga panukalang ito. Lahat tayo, lalo na ang mahihirap, nararamdaman ang pagtaas ng biliin. Panahon ito para umaksyon at maghanap ng konkretong solusyon," Robredo said.